Byline: Martin Luther King III, SPECIAL TO THE WASHINGTON TIMES
As I reflect on the meaning and importance of the inauguration of Barack Obama as the first African American to be elected president of our great nation, I am reminded of the dream of Martin Luther King and the African-American narrative, and how it parallels the American dream and the American narrative. As King's dream is rooted in the American dream, so is the African-American narrative rooted in the American narrative.
A peoples' narrative may be defined as a coherent arrangement of facts and myths explaining the group's past and present and embodying their hopes for the future.
Since slavery, African Americans have been constructing a narrative as a group that, much like my father's dream, is rooted in the ideal American narrative. Like the ideal American dream, the ideal American narrative tells of a nation whose ideals - its values and principles, it mores and norms - are the sacred substance of life and liberty, justice and equality, opportunity and responsibility.
The substance of the American dream is expressed in these sublime words: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.
My father's dream is a profound, eloquent and unequivocal expression of a world where the dignity and worth of all human personality are its ideals. It is a dream of a nation where men of all races, colors and creeds live together as brothers - he added, or perish as fools.
Today, African Americans have the opportunity to shape the substance of its narrative and realize its full promise. Perhaps most striking is the main character in this chapter of that narrative: a black man who will serve as the most powerful person in the world.
But, let us not be confused. The president-elect is not the only writer of this narrative any more than he is the story's only character. Today, the African-American narrative will be written from the inkwells of all African Americans - our civil society, our business community, our political electeds and every citizen. The question is what will we - each of us - write?
The ideal answer is certain to be found in understanding and interpreting my father's dream narrative. His vision of its significance to the American dream itself saw that this nation could not realize its fullest potential unless each and every American has the untrammeled opportunity to fulfill his or her total individual capacity without regard to race, creed, color or any other qualifier. …